Santa Monica Tells Los Angeles Dogs to “Keep Out!”

Could these be called "Park Wars?" Thanks to Crystal Santana for barking in this article from the LA Times. Crystal Santana wrote: You write about...

Joy  |  May 19th 2007


SantaMonicaDogPark.jpg

Could these be called “Park Wars?”

Thanks to Crystal Santana for barking in this article from the LA Times.

Crystal Santana wrote:
You write about various legislative and interesting news stories. I wanted to bring to your attention a story about a new off-leash dog park that is barring Los Angeles residents from using the park and restricting the use to only Santa Monica residents. The point of argument is that the regular park is used by both Los Angeles and Santa Monica residents because this new park is bordered by Los Angeles residents. Santa Monica has gone as far as posting a police officer at the gate to the off lease park to prevent non-Santa Monica dogs from using the park.

Angelenos told to keep their paws off dog parkPets without a Santa Monica tag are barred from the off-leash area, angering a nearby L.A. neighborhood.
By Martha Groves, Times Staff Writer

Under the Santa Monica city code, only dogs with tags from that city are allowed in the off-leash area of the new Santa Monica Airport Park, which opened Sunday at the northwest corner of Bundy Drive and Airport Avenue.

The situation has prompted howls of protest from indignant Angelenos, including Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who noted in a statement that L.A. residents live close by and will be affected by traffic to and from the location but won’t be able to exercise their dogs there. Rosendahl, whose district includes Mar Vista, added that he was hoping to work out a compromise with Santa Monica officials.

“I have a responsibility to protect Los Angeles residents from unfair practices,” Rosendahl said.

The Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles begins just across Bundy from the Santa Monica Airport.

Many residents have complained for years about noise and pollution from jets that use the airport. Exclusion from the off-leash area has added another point of contention.

Tom Ponton, vice chairman of the Mar Vista Community Council, said it was ridiculous that Santa Monica was barring Los Angeles dogs from a park “in Mar Vista’s backyard, which most of us can walk to.” He added that Mar Vista residents “pay a lot of taxes in Santa Monica when we eat in a restaurant or patronize a business.”

Barbara Stinchfield, Santa Monica’s director of community and cultural services, said the ordinance at issue dated from the early 1990s, when the city began building off-leash areas at the request of residents. It now has a dog run and two other dog parks, both in the Ocean Park neighborhood, that are intensively used. The city has 5,500 licensed dogs.

She noted that the vast majority of the eight-acre airport park, which features a large grassy area, a soccer field and children’s play equipment, is open to all visitors and leashed dogs, no matter their addresses. Only the off-leash dog park area, at less than an acre, is restricted. The limit at any given time is 45 dogs and owners.

Stinchfield said the city was considering trying to define a radius that would include portions of Los Angeles whose residents could use the dog park. “We looked at ZIP Codes and census tracts, we drove around and tried to define a boundary, but it was very difficult,” she said. Another possibility, she said, would be a pilot program that would provide 15 dog licenses for Los Angeles neighbors. “If the capacity were there, we’d increase the number of tags,” she said. Any such change would have to be approved by the Santa Monica City Council. (The dog license fee is $15 for spayed or neutered dogs, and $50 for unaltered dogs.)

Los Angeles has only nine off-leash dog areas for the entire city, Stinchfield said. That, she added, helps explain why Los Angeles residents are frustrated.

Richard Bloom, a longtime Santa Monica councilman, said the city had “been in discussions with Councilman Rosendahl for over a year to figure out how we can be good neighbors to Los Angeles.” He added that the city was expecting usage of the new dog park “to be intense because of the pent-up demand.” The airport park is the city’s first new park in about 25 years, he said.

On Wednesday, none of this hullabaloo was bothering Otis, a 9-year-old chocolate Labrador that was munching on wood chips covering the ground at the off-leash area. But dog walker Jennifer Mielziner, who showed Otis’ Santa Monica tag to an officer at the gate to enter, was critical of the rule.

“Santa Monica is one of the worst,” she said. “They’re really fascists. It makes no sense that people across the street can’t walk their dogs over here.”

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